As the flagship issue of META - the UK’s first magazine written for and by the transgender community – has hit the electronic shelves, we wanted to catch up with its creator and Editor-In-Chief, Paris Lees.
Quite the chameleon, Paris Lees has made her name as an activist for transgender rights – a strong-mouthed member of Trans Media Watch and a freelance journalist for DIVA magazine, however this is the first time that she has been given the seat of power in any of her roles. So when we asked her if it was scary, we were astounded when she said, ‘It’s just exciting more than anything, and it’s not as if it happened overnight. We’ve been working the project for almost a year now, and the first issue only came out last week, so I’ve had time to get used to the idea. It’s also been a huge learning curve for me, and I couldn’t have done it without such a fantastic team around me’.
If you have read any of her blog you will know that she is quite the wordsmith, which is why she regularly gets asked to contribute to various publications, but did she have any advice for other trans writers trying to break out? ‘Just write, write and write’, she told So So Gay, before adding, ‘it’s not an easy industry to break into, so you have to be prepared to work hard to start off with’.
Getting into activism as a result of discovering the online trans community and discovering inspiring people like Christine Burns and Stephen Wittle, she remembers, ‘feeling this keen sense of injustice, and making a promise, to myself, to spend the rest of my life trying to make things better for people like me’, she never regrets her moves in the activist circles, telling us, ‘It was the best decision I’ve ever made’.
Trans Media Watch, for those who don’t know, ‘do a lot of advocacy behind the scenes with media outlets, trans people who’ve approached us, government and regulators’ as Paris explained. She went on to discuss Trans Media Action, TMW’s sister project, which has started ‘engaging with the media in constructive ways’. Paris’ job is to ‘help manage our lively twitter and facebook presence, which is a fantastic way of gauging the mood in the online trans community’ she told us.
Being very blasé about the way she ‘came out’ as being trans on the BBC Breakfast show, ‘I was more concerned with how the day would go at the Leveson Inquiry, saying the right things and, also, how tired I looked’, as, ‘there’s not really anyone in my social circle or family who don’t know my history’, we approached her with the rumours of a Channel 4 presenting job. ‘It’s a one off, late night slot for now, so don’t expect me to become the next Davina McCall anytime soon’, she told us, adding that she ‘wouldn’t want to be torn apart every day by the tabloids’. Fair enough.
‘Preparing for world domination’ being her plans for the future, we asked Paris what we’ll see in the next issue of META. ‘Well, you can expect lots more lively debate, in depth features and intelligent discourse on all things gender. Juliet Jacques has written us a great piece on trans people in football, and we we’ll be taking a look at some cool counter culture trends. We’ll also be working with Fox from My Transsexual Summer to develop the look of the mag. MTS didn’t really show much of Fox’s story, but he’s actually a very talented artist, and I’m really looking forward to collaborating with him’. Excellent to us – we can’t wait.
The first issue of META is available for purchase here across multiple platforms